When was the last time you read or heard a runner, when counting down the days, hours and minutes before the start of a race, declaring that he's fully trained and prepared for the challenge? I bet if you did, it must have been ages ago. But I would venture that it's probably likelier that you haven't met such a runner yet up to now.
Since I started running seriously in late 2008, I've met many, many runners of different colours, sizes, and racial and family backgrounds. And on many occasions, I've had the opportunities to mingle with them in the days leading to the races that they've signed up for. Or otherwise, I've also had glimpses of their thoughts through their facebook posts, or blogs. I've noticed a curious tendency in almost all of themthey almost always have a mechanical paragraph specially dedicated for safety nets.
The safety nets I speak of come in many sizes, shapes and forms. But after seeing so many over the years, there is a sense of monotonemost of them have begun to look the same to me. It is almost like these “safety net” paragraphs are an expected ingredient of the race reports!
Don't get me wrong, though; I'm not immune from that tendency too! And since my next race is the Vibram HK 100 in the third week of January next year, I thought I might as well take the opportunity to fill up the gap between race reports with this article about safety nets. As I said, there are many types, but I will just mention three of the more popular ones here.
The Injury Safety Nets
This is intended to inform the readers that the runner is carrying an injury going into the race. Or at the very least, he has just recovered from an injury which has prevented him to train properly throughout the months or weeks prior to the race. If it's not injuries, then it will be other types of illnesses somehow.
The Insufficient-Training Safety Nets
This is intended to emphasize the fact that the runner, despite free from injuries, did not have the time to train properly. This could be due to job and family commitments, and unfavourable weather conditions. Others may also offer other excuses such as lack of mood to train. But it all boils down to arriving at the starting line without the necessary training for the race.
The Run-For-Fun Safety Nets
Of course the most popular of them all is the ultimate fool-proof defence that is not to be gainsaid. This is when the runner has a secret wish to do wellperhaps even trying to achieve a personal bestbut declares that he's just running for fun “just to finish the race”. I have a shrewd suspicion that the majority of runners, whether new or seasoned, fall within this category.
The inevitable question is: Why do we do that; why do we automatically, perhaps subconsciously, provide for these safety nets at all?
I'm convinced that for most runners, there is that peculiar feeling of unpreparedness no matter how prepared they are! I'm sure there are many, many reasons out there, but I can only speak for myself.
Well, I have two main reasons; and they are connected to one another. Firstly, I have come to a stage where people expect me to keep achieving greater achievements in every race that I join. Maybe it has a lot to do with my own obsession in trying so hard to improve myself in each race; and people have come to see a kind of “trend” in my results over the years. So subconsciously I feel there is a need to remind these people that I'm no longer a budding athlete; rather a runner approaching the twilight of his life!
Secondly, I lay out the safety nets because I don't want to put pressure upon myself and then get all stressed up even before the race! The burden of self-expectation can be quite overwhelming, you know! Having said that, however, I always make it a point to try my very best in almost all of my races, in spite of all those safety nets; unless of course if I had planned to treat an event as a training workout from the beginning.
Without much hope of getting any response from my readers, I'm inviting you to share what are your reasons for the safety nets. I would really love to know.